Cardington Slalom Course


Chair: Dave McCarthy

Grid Reference TL076487

Nearby Postcode MK44 3JZ


The UK’s first artificial course, newly upgraded and still probably the UK’s most beginner-friendly, located in Bedford’s Priory Country Park, 2.5km downstream from Bedford town centre.

From 2014, the course has been redesigned and now uses the ‘Rapid Bloc’ boulder system used at Lee Valley, which has meant the course is now deeper and wider than before, and more of the maximum ‘head’ is used, so more features. It still has a dual function, acting as both a river flood control and a slalom course, so we still have to build the course for each usage and take it all down afterwards (but the Eastern RDT is working on that!)

Opened in September 1982, Cardington is a 120m long S-shaped trapezoid concrete channel with movable boulders fixed to the base which can be moved to make different river patterns. The maximum drop is 1.7 meters, but it’s enough for a good white water training facility and you can warm up on the main river. It offers safe moving water for paddlers at any level, and is suitable for up to Division 2 Slaloms, and also for recreation groups to hire (see Bookings below).

Priory Country Park is a beautiful location teeming with wild life - deer, otters, foxes and many different bird species – and you can tour through the Bedfordshire countryside on the river Great Ouse, one of the cleanest low level rivers in the UK. Camping and caravanning are available on site, and there is drinking water and an Elsan disposal point in the car park. Arrangements can be made to hire portable toilets for campers.

Bookings and enquires please contact Chairman Dave McCarthy at

JS Grading

B: Slightly moving water, giving some eddy-lines, but not enough to worry paddlers; and with at the most one small drop which paddlers simply have to run down. Even courses that are usually easy can become dangerous in exceptional high water conditions. If in doubt, seek advice or stay off the water.